By Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M.
When I was first ordained, an older friar asked me if I knew yet what
my assignment was going to be. I told him, “I’m going to study and teach
Scripture.” His face grew very serious, and he said, “Oh my! Be careful...be
very, very careful!” For him, there was something dangerous, something “not
about studying Scripture.
As common as this attitude was, it was also, sadly, wrong. The Scriptures
are part of the foundations of Christianity. One of the most important tasks of the
Second Vatican Council was its recovery and revitalizing of the Bible in the liturgy
and life of Catholics. After the Council, we can note especially the growth of two
kinds of activities centered on the Bible: study groups and prayer groups.
When we begin to read the Bible, we notice that we are in a world and
culture quite different from our own. The Bible was written in ancient languages (Hebrew,
Aramaic and Greek); its stories take place within the setting and history of the ancient
Near East. Because of all this, it is a “closed book” to us. This is why
it is a good idea to have at hand a Catholic
But we also pray the Bible. We believe that somehow, in and through it,
God speaks to us. Our first encounter with the Bible is usually within the context
of worship. The community of faith gathers to celebrate, and the Bible has a special
place. It is proclaimed, meditated on, preached and applied to our lives. Outside of
the liturgy, we find prayer groups that read, reflect on and share the Bible. It is
an “open book” to us.
There is a curious tension then between these two activities. The Bible
is an ancient book and does need to be studied just like other ancient documents. But
it is more than that. It continues to speak to us in the context of our community of
What is it about the Bible that makes it “more”?
Jesus: The Man, the Christ
We refer to the Bible as the Word of God. What, exactly, does
that mean? The Bible is not the Word of God #1. The Word of God #1 is Jesus Christ.
In Jesus, his teachings and actions, his life, death and resurrection, we see who God
is (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #101-102). Central to our faith is the
belief that, in Jesus, God has become incarnate. In himself, Jesus combines both the
human and the divine.
As human, Jesus was a first-century Palestinian, a Jewish male who ate,
drank and slept as he walked the roads from Galilee to Judea. Finally, he suffered
and died. As divine, however, Jesus was united to the Father in and through the Holy
Spirit from the first moment of his existence. This same Spirit guided him throughout
his life and eventually raised him up in the Resurrection.
The Bible is the Word of God insofar as it relates to the mystery of
Christ. The Bible also has a human and a divine side. Because the Bible is human, it
is firmly rooted in ancient languages, cultures and history; it expresses itself in
the literary forms of its time, which can be quite different from ours. As such, it
must be studied.
The Spirit Still at Work
But because the Bible is of God, it reveals God to us. Just as the Holy
Spirit was in Jesus, so too the Spirit was active in the production of the books of
the Bible (this is what is meant by the “inspiration of the Bible”), and
continues to be active today. While they can and do contain errors (e.g., scientific,
historical), we affirm that
“the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth
which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures” (CCC,
The analogy between the mystery of the Incarnation and the Bible has
often been officially affirmed by the Church; it is the foundation of a Roman Catholic
approach to the Bible. Because the Bible is so intimately tied to Christ, the old friar
was right after all—but in a way far different from what he intended: With the
Bible, we must indeed be very careful—full of care—to approach the Bible
with reverence and to make it a regular part of our spiritual lives within the context
of our community of faith.
Next: Why Do We Talk to God?
What does the Bible mean to you? Does it have a significant
place in your everyday life?
What is your favorite story from the Old Testament? From
the New Testament? Why?
By Judith Dunlap
The Bible is a library of books: poetry, wise sayings, history, letters
and stories. All of the books have one thing in common. They all relate to God, who
was very much active in the lives of his people. I like the stories best because I
get to read about ordinary men and women as well as great kings and queens who had
problems just like me. I get to see how their response brought them closer to or further
away from God. Reading their sacred stories helps me when I reflect on my own story.
Each of us has a story. The weeks, months and years of our life turn
into the chapters of our story. Few of us reach adulthood without experiencing enough
comedy and tragedy to fill our own “sacred”
book. What a shame if we never take the time to sit back and “reread”
these pages that continue to shape our future.
The great philosopher Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not
worth living.” That’s a rather dramatic way of saying that life is short,
and if you don’t stop once in a while to reflect on it, it will pass you right
by. How can we grow as persons unless we look back and learn from our past? How can
we grow as Christians if we don’t look back on our lives with the eyes of faith
to see where we have been and where we need to be?
Take time for theological reflection. Ask yourself where God was in the
various chapters in your life. Take time to sit with your children and reminisce. Help
them see you as the child you once were with your own fears and failings. Share your
stories and your wisdom with them. Listen to their stories and teach them the life
skill of reflecting on their own lives and seeing them as sacred stories, too.
Ask family members to talk about their favorite birthday. Include
as many details as possible. End with a prayer thanking God for the people and
things that made that birthday special.
Akeelah and the Bee
By Frank Frost
The 2002 box-office hit documentary Spellbound proved that a spelling bee can
provide riveting competition and dramatic tension. Now the imperfect but lovely drama, Akeelah
and the Bee, offers another perspective. Here the dogged pursuit of the winner’s
trophy in the National Spelling Bee becomes a search for a much greater prize: self-worth.
Akeelah (Keke Palmer) is a brilliant, but reluctant, 11-year-old student in a rundown
school in Los Angeles County, where it is far from cool to be a “brainiac” (an
issue facing girls her age everywhere in our country). Her mother desperately tries
to keep Akeelah and her siblings on the straight and narrow while working long hours
at a hospital, at the expense of the attention her kids need to feel valued.
Tipped off by Akeelah’s teacher, her school principal pushes her to enter the
school spelling bee, which she aces. But Akeelah considers the risk of social rejection
too high and refuses to go on to the district bee. The principal offers her the tutelage
of an old friend and professor (Dr. Larabee, played by Laurence Fishburne), who incidentally
had, years before, gotten to the National Spelling Bee himself before losing.
That Akeelah will eventually compete in the nationals is never in doubt. Our interest
is captured, rather, by all the personal challenges she must face down to do it. All
of the other contestants come from upscale school districts with big cars and supportive
parents, while Akeelah takes the bus and hides her participation from her mother, who
is too busy working. (The filmmakers take care not to make this a black-white thing.
While Akeelah is black, her chief competitors and eventual friends are Hispanic and
But the greatest obstacles she must overcome are self-doubt and a sense of unworthiness.
In an early coaching session, Dr. Larabee has Akeelah read a quote she sees posted
in his office. It forms the heart of the movie:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we
are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens
us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not
serve the world.”
It’s not just Akeelah who craves the feeling of being valued by others. The
principal wants recognition for the school. Dr. Larabee is blocked by a secret grief
he suffers. The leader of the gang Akeelah’s brother hangs out with sees in her
aspirations something he once wanted.
As her success grows, Akeelah discovers that she carries with her the hopes of her
whole neighborhood and community. Whether or not she wins the top prize, she brings
them all renewed dignity and pride. The unabashed goodness of this small, simple movie
gives us all heart.
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
St. Martha (first century)
Poor Martha. She kept herself busy in the kitchen preparing a meal for
Jesus while her sister Mary sat at the master’s feet, absorbed in his every word.
Then, when Martha complained that she could use some help with the household chores,
Jesus gently told her that her sister Mary had “chosen the better part.”
But Martha was more than a fussy, frantic hostess trying to impress an
important guest who had come to the family home in Bethany, where Jesus often stayed
as he made his way to Jerusalem. She was a woman of deep faith, and one of Jesus’ dearest
friends. When she and her sister lost their brother Lazarus, Martha left Mary at home
with grieving friends and family. She ran down the road to meet Jesus, who had received
word about Lazarus, and bared her soul:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).
Martha’s spontaneous outpouring of sorrow led to a rich moment
between her and Jesus, who identified himself to her as “the resurrection and
the life” and promised that
“whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”
When Jesus asked Martha if she believed him, she responded with a profound profession
of faith: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son
of God, the one who is coming into the world” (John 11:24-27).
Martha had her struggles finding a balance between doing and being, but
ultimately she demonstrated that she knew well who Jesus really was—not just
a family friend with whom she had spent many hours at home but the Messiah himself.
While Martha kept herself busy serving, she also learned from Jesus to appreciate nutrition
of the soul as well. Her feast day is July 29.
All her life, Kathy Lynch has been a caregiver: beginning, at age 11,
with her dying aunt; then her grandmother and her mother. Following her mother’s
death, Ms. Lynch knew something had to change in her own life, which had included working
27 years in Michigan’s auto industry.
She quit her job. Without any sense of what she would do next, with no
buyout or benefits to lean on, she faced her own
“fear factor” and waited for God to tell her what should come next. The
answer came. She joined the staff of the Community and Outreach Center at St. Aloysius
Parish in downtown Detroit. She is its director today.
Open six days a week, the Center staff and volunteers serve up to 700
people per day. “We greet our guests with a smile, a warm building, a cup of
hot coffee, donuts and a bowl of oatmeal,” Ms. Lynch told Every Day Catholic.
Services offered also include hygiene kits, coats, clothing, blankets and special groceries
for seniors as well as support groups, educational opportunities and spiritual gatherings.
The Center also has a Healing Garden and Meditation Room, which anyone can use as “a
calming place to become healthy.”
If she allowed it, the Center could take every ounce of her energy and
spirit. For a while it did. She was “living, breathing, sleeping, dreaming”
the Center. She didn’t have time for prayer. A close friend helped her see the
imbalance in her life.
Today, Ms. Lynch can see that she was “talking a good line but
wasn’t living it.” She has found her way back to asking God what he wants
of her each day. “With all that Jesus did in his years on earth, he always found
time to be with his Father in prayer. Jesus himself needed nourishment.”